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political reform?(12 posts)

political reform?DougSloan
Jul 1, 2003 10:31 AM
Had an idea for political reform...

No legislator may vote on an issue directly affecting a contributor to that legislator's campaign. This would need some work, but that's essentially it; sort of an expansion of conflicts of interest prohibitions.

Also, allow only single issue bills (Missouri has this law). No tying local pork to any old bill.

No vote swapping (trading), either.

Whaddya think?

I like it.Alex-in-Evanston
Jul 1, 2003 10:45 AM
Does anyone know if conflict of interest voting is outlawed in other democracies? It seems ridiculous that this ethos exists so strongly in our judiciary, but not among our legislators.

BTW - I think if this had been practice from the founding, it would be impossible for us to imagine a system like the one we have now.

Great idea.

I like it.Jon Billheimer
Jul 1, 2003 10:57 AM
In Canada, federal politicians have to put all their business interests in blind trusts. Cabinet ministers are supposed to recuse themselves from committee votes which would affect any companies in which they have an interest. Corporate campaign contributions have also been limited to, I think, $1000.00. Also, candidates have to make public the sources and amounts of their campaign contributions. Ditto for leadership candidates.

A corollary to this has often been proposed, but not enacted, and that is to limit both the length and cost of campaigns. There are time limits up here, but I don't remember what they are.
re: political reform?Jon Billheimer
Jul 1, 2003 10:49 AM
Wonderful idea, Doug. But it'll never happen in a million years. It would gut the very foundation of the commercialization of American democracy, a de facto institution as entrenched as the constitution itself.
would probably require an Amendment nmDougSloan
Jul 1, 2003 11:05 AM
too high a standardmohair_chair
Jul 1, 2003 11:09 AM
I like your first two ideas, but no vote swapping (trading) is where you lost me. Compromise is one of the foundations of representative democracy, and without it, we end up in idiotic pissing contests. The Senator from Florida may not care about anything that happens in Nevada, but he or she still gets to vote on it. I see nothing wrong with him or her trading his disinterested vote for future consideration.

Also, the campaign thing is easy to get around. Run your official campaign, but get "volunteers" to run a parallel campaign for you outside of any restrictions. Anyone, even people not associated with the campaign, can make TV spots or newspaper ads for their favorite candidate.
Why would you want to do that?TJeanloz
Jul 1, 2003 11:10 AM
I think the issue of campaign contributions is probably the most difficult faced by the Government today. However, contributions serve as a an important proxy of how important legislation is to a particular group. It is a quantifiable measure of how much people care about a particular cause - eliminating voting on these issues would skew things unfavorably.

The single issue bills side is quite reasonable, in my opinion - ammendments seem ridiculous to me.

Vote trading likewise provides an important marketplace to get things done for the betterment of the whole. Without it, local projects would never get funded, and national projects would face much steeper hurdles.
Contributions are a quantifiable measuretorquer
Jul 1, 2003 12:13 PM
of how much money is at stake, not necessarily of how many people care about a given issue.

I've always been intrigued by the idea of anonymous contributions: you can give as much money as you want to whoever you want, but it goes into a lockbox account and is distibuted to the intended politico minus your name on the check. You can claim credit for the contribution, but so can anyone else with a competing agenda.

Of course, then campaign contributions may become recognition of "services rendered" to the contributor in the past. The remedy for this would be term limits, which I don't otherwise support.

Doug, what's the current status of challenges to the McCain-Feingold limitations on interest groups advocating on behalf of, but independent from, favored candidates?
Jul 1, 2003 12:35 PM
But isn't how much money at stake a proxy for how much people are willing to give up to gain something? Money, after all, is nothing more than a piece of paper - it is the value behind the money that is important.

I'm not saying it's a fair system, but it's the best we've come up with so far.
The ideas are soundOldEdScott
Jul 1, 2003 11:11 AM
But just a couple of problems would be thorny.

Given the fact that almost every legislator takes money from almost everyone, there would be very few bills they could vote on. You wouldn't even get a quorum to vote. (Of course, that might be a plus, given the quality of most bills).

That's assuming contributions continue to flow in from 'interests,' which they probably would not. It might be a way of just shutting down special-interest contributions altogether, since they couldn't buy access, which would be interesting. I'm not sure that's your intent. But spending on campaigns would definitely deflate dramtically. Not much money comes from individuals in the grand scheme of things.

But very shortly 'interests' would just separate out into 'individuals,' much as contributions are now 'bundled.' Everyone would know where the money was coming from, and it'd be given and taken with a wink.

As far as single-subject bills, we have that in Kentucky. Works pretty well. Adds to the clutter of bills, but that's manageable.

Vote swapping ban could never be enforced, and shouldn't. Vote swapping is just normal politics, and greases the system. No one's an expert on everything, and no one CARES about everything. Plus it's a way of building consensus and compromise. Nothing really wrong with that.
Whaddya think?53T
Jul 1, 2003 11:24 AM
I think this thread is turning into a fantasy fest.

Generally, I think these ideas are whittling away at democracy.

Let's look at some of the unintended consequences:

A) No legislator can vote on an issue direcly affecting a campain contributor.

1) First off, the vote on the major budget bills will be 0 to 0, not that that's a bad thing. But let's take a more narrow piece of legislation, like a big pork-filled defence plant construction bill. An intrepid legislator will anticipate such a bill coming up this session. In order for him to vote on it he makes sure he takes no contributions from the potential employee pool (5000 citizens), the local businesses who will profit (200 voters), the landowners that will be affected (30 voters), or the enviromental groups who oppose the construction (300 voters). To finance his campain he will only take money from Archer Daniels Midland and Halliburton Oil, since they will not be affected by the defence plant. Is that what you were after?

B)No multiple issue bills.

2)This may work. In Mass we have bundled spending legislation just like in Washington, but the Governor has a line item veto. This is almost like requiring single issue bills. I would oppose it just because I don't like limiting the discresion of Congress, the most democratic branch of government.

C) No vote swapping

3) That's crazy talk. You would be in effect limiting the contract liberty of two independant congressmen to arrange votes. (I am still waiting for the Lochner era to return) This is just not enforceable. Hell, even vote swapping is not enforceable. No vote is a sure thing untill all the representatives have voted, and even then a motion to reconsider could still get you (catostrophic health care, anyone?).

All in all, these ideas go in the term limits bucket as "sounds nice, but doesn't really help"
I think it's a great idea ...sacheson
Jul 1, 2003 6:18 PM
... maybe you can slide it in as a rider on another bill ... and you might just contribute enough to someone's campain to get a vote for it, or at least get a vote from someone that owes the Senator you contributed to a favor back!

Just kidding - trying to be funny. I really do like the idea. What to do about career politicians?